The Issues

We shouldn’t have to panic at every heavy rain. Three devastating floods in three years, including Harvey, the most destructive flood in Houston’s history, have made an unshakable, indelible impression on the city’s collective mindset. True leadership on City Council is needed to get this right; it’s time to make sure smart, creative, and big-thinking investments are made to protect our families, neighborhoods, and businesses from floods.

Watch this video about my plan to keep floodwaters our of people’s homes »

As your council member, I will work to:

  • Invest in transformative drainage projects to protect the maximum number of citizens from repeated flooding. With significant federal post-Harvey funding, county flood control bond funds, and local capital improvement dollars, Houston is poised as never before to shape a more flood-resilient future. We need to make sure the city, state, county and federal governments all work closely together to get projects done quickly, on budget, and in a way that gives the help to the people and neighborhoods that need it most.
  • Improve the effectiveness and transparency of the city’s ReBuild Houston program. ReBuild Houston’s four sources of funding: ad valorem taxes; drainage utility fees; third-party funds (including Metro mobility); and developer impact fees have paid for more than $1 billion worth of drainage and mobility projects and activities while paying off $1.1 billion in city debt for projects already done. However, lack of implementation transparency from the start has overshadowed the program’s successes. The city must do a better job prioritizing drainage and street projects and showing taxpayers where their money is going.
  • Expand the city’s successful Storm Water Action Team (SWAT) Program, because you know your neighborhood better than bureaucrats. The SWAT program relies on your suggestions to target smaller-scale neighborhood drainage fixes such as replacing storm sewer and outfall pipes and regrading ditches. SWAT is responsible for hundreds of needed drainage projects throughout the city—projects prioritized at the grassroots level by residents like you who know the problems in their neighborhoods and can best help the city find trouble spots.
  • Promote common-sense “green” drainage solutions like rain gardens, green roofs, permeable pavement, rain barrels, and planter boxes. Houston lags way behind other major cities in adopting proven green infrastructure practices to reduce stormwater runoff and manage flood risk. Where it makes good economic sense, we need to lead by example by incorporating more green infrastructure practices on city road and drainage projects and at city buildings. The city also should offer incentives to private developers and homeowners who promote environmental quality and contribute to flooding protection with green solutions.
  • Incorporate detention and flood mitigation into city parks and green space. With limited land available for these purposes, the city should take full advantage of existing open spaces to double as areas for both recreation and flood mitigation and management. The city should partner with Harris County, nonprofits, and the philanthropic community to build on the successes of dual-purpose projects like Buffalo Bayou Park.
  • Ensure that developer regulations encourage responsible development that does not negatively impact surrounding communities.
  • Be a watchdog over the billions of dollars flowing to the city for Hurricane Harvey recovery, and hold city departments accountable to make sure funds go to the people and projects most in need.
  • Advocate for the study and execution of all viable projects to mitigate future flooding including flood tunnels, coastal surge protection, dam improvements, and a third reservoir. Rely on studies and community input to make sure tax dollars are not spent on frivolous projects.

Traffic consistently ranks as a top concern of Houstonians. There’s nothing more frustrating than congested roads, traffic jams, and longer-than-expected commutes. City leaders must reframe the mobility discussion; no longer is it an issue of how to cram more cars on more lanes on more roads. With population over the next 20 years expected to increase by nearly one million people in the Houston city limits (four million more in the region), we can’t think that narrowly; we must think about how to move people, not just cars. We also must address the poor condition of many of our streets and focus on the fact that Houston roads are the most dangerous and deadly in the country.  As your council member, I will work to:

  • Improve the flow of traffic on city streets. This means smarter signal timing, dedicated lanes for buses, and well-maintained roadways. It’s hard to move traffic smoothly down the street when there are potholes, sinkholes, and crumbling asphalt.
  • Invest in road improvements and hold city contractors accountable for delivering quality road construction projects on time and on budget.
  • Engage with city and county leaders in the region, Metro, and TxDOT to advance a multimodal “more than just cars” approach. Houston needs everything to help relieve stress on streets and freeways—cars, buses, bus rapid transit, light rail, commuter rail, pedestrian, bicycle, rideshare, autonomous vehicles, and whatever else new technology brings.  We need more attractive, convenient, and faster connections between major activity centers—get people where they need to go quicker and with less hassle.
  • Make sure frequent and reliable transit is available to residents who need it most. Many Houstonians rely on public transportation as their only option to get to work, school, daycare, the doctor, or the grocery store. Transportation policy decisions must address existing inequities in under-resourced areas.
  • Prioritize street safety and adopt a Vision Zero action plan. Houston is ranked #1 for the most dangerous roads in the nation and in the top five for speeding, number of pedestrians and bicyclists hit, and DWIs. Vision Zero is a global initiative aimed at eliminating traffic fatalities and injuries. Efforts must include public education, designing streets for safety, and better enforcing traffic laws.
  • Embrace emerging, innovative technology that uses smart city devices to predict traffic, improve signal timing, and ensure timely deployment of needed resources like ambulances and police vehicles.

In today’s global and knowledge-based economy, people have greater choice in where they want to live. More and more people, from millennials to baby boomers, are choosing city life—they want attractive, inviting, places that foster a greater sense of community, places where it’s easy to walk places and see your neighbors on the way. “Walkability” doesn’t just add convenience; it expands economic opportunity and helps citizens save time and money. Houston needs more vibrant, pedestrian-friendly centers of activity with access to housing, jobs, education, parks, services, retail, and recreation.  Watch my video about making Houston more walkable »

As your council member, I will work to:

  • Adjust development rules and parking regulations to allow for the creation of more walkable spaces. Houston’s setback and parking requirements are geared more toward sprawling, suburban development. The city should make changes to encourage development of more pedestrian-friendly areas.
  • Support the work of the city’s Walkable Places Committee which is creating an application-based process to designate walkable areas with attractive pedestrian realms along existing transit corridors. The city, with input from affected neighborhoods, should adopt policies to attract development around high-use public transit lines, so a walk to the bus or rail is an enjoyable experience. Ideally, neighborhoods should connect to transportation via safe and accessible streets and sidewalks with a healthy balance of shops, jobs, schools, restaurants, and services along the way.
  • Create a sidewalk master plan. The city’s existing sidewalk programs don’t cut it; with an average annual budget of $2.5 million and a backlog of $83 million in needed projects, it isn’t effective. The plan should assess the current condition of our sidewalks and explore potential sources to fund improvements.
  • Protect pedestrians. Motorists and pedestrians share the road, and designing roads to keep everyone safe is critically important. Fixes don’t have to be expensive; sometimes simple, bright markings at intersections can do the trick. Buffers to separate pedestrians and moving cars, like on-street parking or landscaping, are also key.
  • Continue to invest in Houston parks and the keep the momentum of Houston’s “green renaissance” going. Build on the success of Bayou Greenways 2020 by adding and improving neighborhood parks and promoting interconnectivity between parks, neighborhoods, and hike and bike trails.
  • Plant more trees. In Houston weather, a shady walk is often the only way to go. The cooling impact of trees, not to mention their ability to absorb stormwater, make trees an essential ingredient to walkable areas. Working with private and nonprofit partners, the city should prioritize tree planting and maintenance to create healthy and attractive places to walk.
  • Support the Houston Bike Plan and expand the successful Houston Bike Share program. Making Houston a more bikeable city promotes better health, lessens congestion, and improves quality of life. Further, bike-friendly cities, like walkable cities, attract new residents and businesses.

Each year City Council passes a balanced budget as required by state law. The problem is this budget is not structurally balanced—the city spends more than it takes in and doesn’t adequately save for long-term obligations. To cover expenses, the city takes from its reserves and relies on non-recurring revenues like land sales and lawsuit settlements. The city needs to live within its means and take care of its financial future.

Watch this video to learn more about my plan for Houston’s finances »

As your council member, I will work to:

  • Aggressively explore and implement recommendations in the city’s new 10-year financial plan. Taxpayers paid consultants $565,000 for this plan, so it shouldn’t just sit on the shelf. Key cost-saving recommendations include providing market-competitive health benefits, sharing services with Harris County, consolidating and reforming procurement practices, reducing fleet and office space, and implementing zero-based and outcome-based budgeting. The city must right-size government using strategic reviews, consolidation, and increased competition.
  • Put money away for deferred maintenance on city-owned facilities. Currently, the City has over $800 million in deferred maintenance needs. Further delaying much-needed maintenance will end up costing the city, and all of us, much more in the future if we continue to delay.
  • Support all efforts to address the Other Post-Employment Benefits (OPEB) liability which threatens the city’s balance sheet. OPEB relates to health care benefits paid to city retirees and their beneficiaries. The city currently meets its annual obligation on a pay-as-you-go basis, but nothing is paid toward the already accrued liability (similar to paying minimum balance on a credit card). The outstanding balance of this unfunded liability, now $2.4 billion, keeps growing to the tune of $160 million per year.
  • Fully embrace the Smart Cities movement and focus on incorporating AI and big data to better deliver services fast and cheaper.
  • Start a public campaign called, “Your Two Cents” to give you the opportunity to let city leaders know how you want your tax dollars spent. Currently, the city holds one public hearing each year on its $5.4 billion budget at 9:00 A.M. on a Wednesday at City Hall. Not exactly convenient. Hardly anyone shows up, leaving one of City Council’s biggest decisions – how to spend your money — void of public comment. The “Your Two Cents” campaign will ask citizens for budget input via social media, web surveys, and community meetings.

Keeping you and your family safe must be the number one priority of government. Houston’s 5100 police officers and 4000 firefighters are second-to-none. It’s the responsibility of local leaders to make sure our police and fire departments have the people and equipment they need to protect our lives and property from danger. As your council member I will work to:

  • Hire additional police officers. A 2014 study determined over 1000 additional police officers are needed to:  field two-officer responses to dangerous calls for service; reduce overall response times; adequately enforce traffic laws; investigate criminal cases in a timely manner; and successfully clear workable crime cases.
  • Promote community and relational policing which has proven effective in lowering crime. Police and citizens build trust when they are in regular communication. This trust leads to collaboration and changes negative behavioral patterns. If officers are regularly seen in a neighborhood and people get to know and trust them, they are more likely to work together to provide information and reduce crime.
  • Explore consolidating “back-office” functions among law enforcement agencies (there are over 60 law enforcement agencies in Harris County). These functions include evidence and property rooms, training facilities, 911 response systems, technology systems, and procurement processes.
  • Support the city’s strategic plan to fight human trafficking. Houston is a hub for trafficking activity, and the city must continue its coordinated response to raise public awareness, provide services to victims, and identify and crack down on those who perpetuate these human rights violations.
  • Properly equip police officers and firefighters. The city needs to replace outdated personal protective equipment, patrol cars, fire trucks, and ambulances. The city should establish a replacement fund for public safety needs and dedicate funds to it each year.
  • Adjust the deployment model of HFD to better reflect the fact that over 80% of all calls for service are for emergency medical services.
  • Make sure firefighters are provided with the training and professional development they need to excel and support initiatives to protect firefighters from cancer.

Houston needs to keep its economy strong by attracting new businesses to the city and by supporting and growing existing businesses. A trained, skilled workforce completes the picture of a healthy economy, so it’s in Houston’s best interest to make sure all Houstonians have access to the resources and public services they need to climb the economic ladder. Houston flourishes when it supports economic mobility for all. As your council member, I will work to:

  • Foster a business climate where companies can grow and thrive. This includes offering economic incentives, providing top-notch customer service, and speeding up the permitting process.
  • Provide incentives to grocers to alleviate food deserts, areas without access to fresh foods. Incentives must include requirements for grocers to hire from the local community.
  • To remain competitive and bolster the tax base, it’s important the city streamlines permitting processes. City permitting staff should apply rules consistently and help businesses find solutions to keep their projects moving.
  • Support efforts to leverage Houston’s universities, economic strength, and engineering talent to attract more technology-based companies to Houston.
  • Partner with local universities, community colleges, nonprofits, and employers to develop Houston’s workforce and provide the job training needed to get good jobs with opportunity for advancement.
  • Expand current workforce development programs to more library locations.
  • Advance policies and practices aimed at giving all communities access to critical amenities associated with economic opportunity. These include quality affordable homes, education, good public transportation and infrastructure, safe streets and sidewalks, parks, cultural activities, and fresh groceries.

Government has not always advocated for citizens equally, and this needs to be corrected. Cities can play a key role in coordinating efforts and setting up long-term arrangements to match organizations and resources to existing needs. Equity and social justice go hand-in-hand, and leaders must work to combat persistent inequalities which exist in our city. As your council member, I will work to:

  • Advance policies and practices aimed at giving all communities access to critical amenities associated with economic opportunity. These include quality affordable homes, education, good public transportation and infrastructure, safe streets and sidewalks, parks, cultural activities, and fresh groceries.
  • Build public/private partnerships with nonprofits, private corporations, philanthropists, and foundations to create, fund, and implement initiatives to address inequities in under-resourced areas.
  • Increase the supply of affordable housing. The typical home in Houston is no longer affordable for working families. Too many households are paying over 50 percent of their income toward housing, causing Houstonians to live paycheck to paycheck.
  • Support the work of the city’s land bank and newly-created land trust and hold the city accountable for spending tax increment reinvestment zone (TIRZ) affordable housing funds on lasting, safe, affordable housing units. Also, the production of more mixed-income multifamily housing should be incentivized.
  • Combat homelessness by supporting efforts to increase access to low-barrier shelters and provide more permanent supportive housing in Houston. The city and law enforcement also need to take a three-pronged approach to homelessness by focusing on housing, employment, and drug addiction/mental health awareness.
  • Promote, support, and invest in initiatives to clean up Houston’s air and water to ensure citizens are not exposed to dangerous levels of contamination and pollution.
  • Continue the city’s world-class re-entry program for ex-offenders. Seek grant and private funding to support the program which helps participants become productive, contributing members of the Houston community.